The first good rain this fall marked the beginning of a new season. Over in Carmel, it’s the time of year when storms wash the remnants of summer bonfires off the beach. It might also shape up to be lawsuit season.
The city’s two-person IT department has been on paid administrative leave since June, when Carmel police searched the home and computers of Information Services Manager Steve McInchak as part of a criminal investigation into whether he illegally downloaded the private computer records of high-ranking city officials.
Months later, with the police investigation still pending, McInchak has retained both a criminal defense attorney, Richard Rosen of Salinas, and a civil attorney, Pacific Grove-based employment law specialist Michelle Welsh.
It’s too early to determine her client’s legal path forward, Welsh says, but “all the options must remain open. Right now, we don’t believe there’s any basis for a criminal investigation or any criminal allegations at all.”
There’s been no arrest, and Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Hulsey says the D.A. is waiting for findings from the Carmel Police Department before considering potential charges. Carmel police Cmdr. Paul Tomasi declines to comment on the ongoing investigation but says, “I honestly didn’t think it would be this long.”
“We don’t believe there’s any basis for a criminal investigation.”
Welsh represents a second former Carmel city employee who declined to be identified in this story. And while city administrators have been filling some long-vacant management positions, they’ve also been axing people.
Former Building Official John Hanson, who worked for the city for almost 25 years before he was let go in August, has hired Monterey-based attorney Michael Stamp, who represented former Human Resources Director Jane Miller in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city in 2010. She settled for $600,000. Hanson and Stamp declined to comment.
Deputy City Clerk Molly Laughlin and Library Assistant Linda Macdonald also quietly left or lost their jobs. Neither could be reached by deadline, and city officials wouldn’t comment.
Since City Administrator Jason Stilwell came on board two years ago, he’s hired Susan Paul as administrative services director and Sharon Friedrichsen as public services director. All three officials came from Santa Barbara County, where Paul had a reputation as a hatchet person in her role as human resources director.
She worked for Santa Barbara County Administrator Mike Brown, replacing an employee who settled a wrongful termination lawsuit against the county for $900,000. “County staffers jokingly refer to the pair as Mike Paul and Sue Brown,” the Santa Barbara Independent reported in 2009.
While Paul was on staff, Public Defender Jim Egar settled a hostile workplace lawsuit with Santa Barbara County, resigned his post and took the public defender job in Monterey County.
Stilwell says Paul’s there to help focus the city on priorities.
“There’s been relatively typical turnover,” he says of his two-year tenure in Carmel. “The council brought me in to refocus the organization, and we’re doing that. We’ve made it leaner.”